AHGP Transcription Project

Jefferson County

Jefferson County, in the eastern part of the State, is bounded north by St. Louis County, east by St. Louis County and the Mississippi River, south by Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois and Washington, and west by Washington and Franklin Counties, and contains 402,252 acres.

Population in 1820, 1,835; in 1830, 2,592; in 1840, 4,296; 1850, 6,928; in 1860, 10,344; in 1870, 15,380, of whom 14,617 were white, and 763 colored; 8,146 male, and 7,234 female; 12,671 native, (10,210 born in Missouri) and 2,709 foreign.

The country along the Maramec River was settled as early as 1773, and in 1774 settlers began branching out a little. John Hilterbrand made a farm on Saline Creek, about 3 miles from Fenton, and settlements were made and salt works erected near Salt Springs in 1775, at which time people began to locate along Big River and its tributaries. The settlers on the Maramec were forced by the Indian depredations to abandon their homes in I780, and in 1788 Thomas Tyler occupied the Hilterbrand farm, and planted 40 acres of corn and tobacco. The same year John Bailey settled on Romin Creek, about 4 miles from the Maramec, where, for several years, he lived principally by hunting and making maple sugar. He was several times driven off by the Indians, who destroyed his cabin and sugar camp, but he returned and rebuilt them. In I790, the Indians again became troublesome, and the settlers organized for defense, and built a rude fortification on Saline Creek, near Tyler's cabin. In 1795, James Head made a farm on the creek which bears his name, at the present site of House's Springs, named after its next occupant, Adam House, who moved there after Head left the farm, and occupied it about 2 years, when he was killed by the Indians. David Delanny having obtained from the Spanish Government a grant of 800 arpents, settled at Morse's Mill in 1800, and in 1802, Jacob Collins settled 2 miles further up the river, other settlements having in the meantime been made in the vicinity by Francis Wideman, Wm. Estepps and others. In 1804, Jesse Benton located on Big River, at or near the present site of Frumet, the mining and lead manufacturing town of Wm. Einstein & Co., of St. Louis. From 1801 to 1804, settlements were made on Sandy, Joachim and Plattin Creeks, some of the people engaging in farming, others in mining for lead which was abundant. Corn furnished their bread, wild game their meat; they raised cotton and flax, which, with coon, bear and deer skins was made into clothes at home. Sugar and syrup were obtained from the maples at their doors; spice-wood and sassefras furnished their tea. Tobacco was raised, and lead for bullets and barter mined and smelted at their homes, so that the only necessary commodity for which the settlers depended upon others was powder; but powder they must have; the best furs and the choicest game could not be obtained without it, and the county was full of prowling Indians ready to take advantage of any defenceless or unguarded whites that came in their way; hence frequent trips were made to Ste. Genevieve, or St. Louis, for supplies of powder and such other conveniences as the settlers could afford. Lead and furs were the currency used.

After these hardy pioneers, who enjoyed a life of independence and freedom, as well as of peril and anxiety, and who were made of the right kind of stuff for the work, had opened the way and made the country safe, immigration flocked in, and the population steadily increased.

Jefferson County was formed from St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve, Dec. 8th, 1818, and a court for the northern circuit of Missouri Territory, Nathanael Beverly Tucker, judge, Samuel Woodson, clerk, and Andrew Scott, sheriff, was held at Herculaneum, on March 25th, 1819, at which James Rankin, John Geyer and John Finley were appointed commissioners, and James Rankin, surveyor. At this term of court, William Bates, Peter McCormack, Thomas Evans, Henry Mettz, Jacob Wise and Wm. Null, six of the commissioners appointed to select a permanent seat of justice for the county, made a report deciding upon Herculaneum. A log cabin at this place, owned by a negro named Abe, was for some time rented and used as a court-room; when this cabin could no longer be had, sometimes a little room back of a store, owned and occupied by a Mr. Glasgow, or other rooms which were vacant, or which were vacated for the occasion, were used. The officers of the court rented for offices, rooms two or three hundred yards distant, while the juries occupied by turns empty shanties and garrets, when such could be had; and at other times held their deliberations under shade trees. Herculaneum remained the county seat for some years, and was in its day a town of considerable importance, being a receiving point for supplies and the shipping point for lead, for a large section of country. A shot tower was erected and operated successfully for several years. The town is now, like the celebrated city for which it was named, numbered among the things of the past. Judge Charles S. Rankin now owns the property, and the plow-share turns the ground once covered by a busy thriving town. May 9th, 1832, Minor Mothershead, Thomas Hurst, William Hurst, Jesse Phillips and Paschal Detchmondy were appointed commissioners to consider the question of moving the county seat to a more central location. Their report, recommending such change, was approved by the county court June 13th, 1833, but defeated at the election, Aug. 6th following. The question was agitated, however, and in 1835, Monticello, the present site of Hillsboro, became the county seat. The county court, on July 25th, 1836, appropriated $400 to build a new court house to be of hewn logs 20 x 25 feet, 1 1/2 stories high; the upper story to be divided into 3 rooms, one 12 1/2 X 20 feet, and two 10 x 12 1/2 feet each, to have a shingle roof, a stone chimney and 2 fireplaces, one above and one below. Bailey G. Martin was appointed to let the contract and superintend the building, but died before it was commenced. On Sept. 6th following, J. J. Parnell was appointed superintendent of the new court-house, and ordered to ascertain whether stone or brick would be the best and cheapest, and to advertise for bids, or let the contract privately, as might be for the best interest of the county. In the winter of 1836-7, the county seat was located at Hillsboro, the site of which-5o acres-was given to the county by Samuel Merry and Hugh O'Neil. In the summer of 1839, work was commenced on the new court-house, which cost $4,600, and was built by Geo. Cunningham.

Physical Features
The surface of this county is, for the most part, hilly, the highest ridge attaining an elevation of about 450 feet above the Mississippi, and from 200 to 300 feet above the general level of the neighboring water courses. The high lands of a large portion of the county are moderately rolling, possess good soil and a growth chiefly of black, white, post and black jack oak, and black hickory. In the northern and western townships the ridges are very narrow at their summits, separated from each other by deep ravines. The hills bounding the valleys of the large streams are also frequently marked with deep declivities, but sometimes they rise by a succession of gentle slopes; or terraces to the general level of the table lands.

Nearly every part of the county is well watered and the Mississippi and Maramec form its eastern boundary. Big River passes in a serpentine course through the western portion, while Saline, Sugar, Mill and Labarque Creeks flow northward and empty into the Maramec. The principal tributaries of Big River are Dry Fork, Belews, Heads and Jones Creek. Joachim Creek runs from near the south-west corner to the Mississippi, about the middle of the eastern line, the Plattin from the southern boundary north, emptying into the Mississippi about three miles further south, and the Sandy from the center of the county into the Joachim near its mouth. Muddy and Isle au Bois Creeks are on the south-eastern boundary. Grand Glaize and Little Rock Creeks empty into the Mississippi-the former at Sulphur Springs, the latter at Kimmswick. Cotters, Ogles, Watering and Buck Creeks flow into the Joachim, and Hocum, Flucum, Hominy and Dry Fork empty into the Plattin. The valleys of these streams are generally broad, affording many highly cultivated farms, possessing soils of remarkable fertility, which sustain a heavy growth of excellent timber. Springs abound, and some of them, as those at Kimmswick and Sulphur Springs, are considered valuable for their medicinal qualities.

There is much valuable timber, but it is fast disappearing along the line of the railroad. The growth of bottom lands is sycamore, cottonwood, maple, walnut, hickory, hackberry, oak, buckeye, etc., and of the uplands principally oak and hickory.

The scenery along some of the streams is beautiful, and the limestone bluffs of the Mississippi about Selma and Rush Tower have an elevation of from 250 to 300 feet, which at a distance bear a remarkable resemblance to artificial towers. Along the line of the St. Lous & Iron Mountain Rail Road are solid masses of white limestone overhanging the track. The country along the route is grand and picturesque; especially interesting to geologists.

Agricultural Productions
The soil of the uplands varies from dark to red clay, in some places very deep, in others shallow and generally sandy. That of the bottoms is a black loam.

All kinds of grain and fruits are grown here, corn, wheat and oats being the principal crops. Tobacco and cotton are raised to a limited extent. A mixed husbandry is generally followed; that is, to raise grain, hay, fruit and stock; all kinds of the latter, especially sheep, do well, particularly where the old plan of letting common stock run without shelter, feeding and salting only in winter, has given place to improved breeds and greater care.

Among fruits, apples, peaches and grapes are the specialties; the first are exceedingly fine, and never fail. Peaches are as fine as are grown anywhere, and have failed but three times in fifty years, while grape-growing and wine-making is now a large industry, and is rapidly increasing. About one-tenth of the county is under cultivation. There is no swamp or railroad land, and but very little Government Land in the county.

Mineral Resources
These have never been fully developed. Iron and zinc are found in considerable quantities, but the former is not worked. Lead, however, is the great mineral product of the county. Among the more prominent deposits we note the Frumet Mines, seven miles west of De Soto. The Frumet Company have recently erected extensive works for raising, crushing and smelting the ore, and are now doing a fine business. Their works are among the most complete in this country. The company is also shipping large quantities of zinc ore found on their property in great abundance. Frumet is one of the most prominent and permanent establishments in the State of Missouri. The Mammoth Mine, west of De Soto, has not been worked for several years. It once earned the name applied to it, and no doubt would do so again if properly managed. The Plattin Mines, on Plattin Creek, east of De Soto, include a large scope of country that paid well for the labor and capital spent upon it. It was bought several years ago by a New York Company, for a large sum, but has not since been worked. The Valle Mines, in the southern part of the county, have been worked 60 years or more, and are still paying both in lead and zinc ore. The Sandy Mines, T. 41, R. 4 & 5, east, are not now worked-have paid well. The Old Ditch Mines near the line of Washington County, have been worked for 40 years or more, and always paid although there has never been any machinery used for separating ores. Hart's Mines, near the Franklin and Washington County line, have been worked for 10 years, yielding largely. Near the same place a mine has been worked for 40 years, and always paid. Some new discoveries have been made on this lode lately, and near this Neree Valle owns a tract of land, rich in ore. The whole south-western part of the county is dotted with mines, there being a line of them from near the Franklin County corner, in a south-easterly course, to the Ste. Genevieve County line, all of which have been successfully worked. Howe's Mine, east of the Plattin Mine before mentioned, was worked several years ago, but not recently. McCormack Zinc Mine near Plattin, is successfully worked with a small force. There are a score or more of other mines worked occasionally by farmers when they can do nothing else, but the great want is capital, and energy to properly develop them. Sulphate of baryta accompanies lead ore in nearly all the mines in the county. Building stone is abundant everywhere, and potters' and pipe clay are found at Gray's, the former also at the Nashville Mines.

The Manufacturing Interests
There are a number of flouring and saw-mills, 2 lead furnaces, and a plate glass manufacturing company, which is about to begin operations at Crystal City. Water power is abundant.

Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $8,108,520.†

The St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road traverses the county from north-east to south-west, with about 33 miles of track, and the Missouri Pacific runs near the north-western corner.

The Exports are lead, zinc, building stone, sand, timber, wood, wheat, and small quantities of corn, oats, hay, tobacco, potatoes, fruit and stock.

Educational Interests
There is one seminary (built at De Soto in 1860,) and 75 public schools, about half of which have log houses which are rapidly giving place to more comfortable and tasteful buildings. About half of the sub-districts have a good permanent fund from the sale of the 16th section.

Jefferson County Places in 1875

Antonia, 8 miles north east of Hillsborough, has 2 stores, a wagon shop and stave factory.

Avoca, 6 miles south east of De Soto, has 1 mill and 2 stores, one of them owned by the Valle Mining Co.

Bailey - See Hanover.

Belew's Creek, a post office 8 miles north of Hillsborough.

Brighton Mills, 3 miles north west of House's Springs, has a mill and store.

Bushberg, on the Mississippi River and on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 25 miles from St. Louis, is the site of the grape-propagating and wine establishment of Isidor Bush & Son.

Byrne's Mill, 5 miles west of House's Springs, has a mill, store, school house and church.

Cedar Hill, on Big River, 14 miles north west of Hillsborough, has a mill and store.

Crystal City, on the Mississippi River, at the mouth of Plattin Creek, 3 1/2 miles south east of Bailey, is the site of a plate glass manufactory.

De Soto, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 42 miles from St. Louis, is the largest town in the county, and the shipping point for lead and zinc from Frumet, Richwoods, Old Ditch, Valles and Plattin Mines. The town has two flouring-mills, about 15 stores, 2 good hotels, 1 seminary, 1 public school building and 4 churches-Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian. The town recently appropriated $25,000 (the debt above mentioned) to purchase land for the machine shops of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railway, thus securing their location and early erection at this point. It has the usual complement of mechanics, etc. Population about 2,500. The Tribune is published by J. S. & S. B. Brady.

Dittmer's Store, has a post office and store, 12 miles north west of Hillsborough.

Frumet, 7 miles west of De Soto, contains 1 store, a crusher and separator, and lead furnace.

Glenwood, a station on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 24 miles from St. Louis.

Hanover, (Bailey) on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 32 miles from St. Louis, has 2 stores, a school house and Masonic hall, used also for a church. Population about 50.

Hematite, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 35 miles from St. Louis, contains about 300 inhabitants, and has 2 stores, a school house and 2 churches.

High Ridge, a post office 21 miles north of Hillsborough.

HILLSBOROUGH, the county seat, is situated near the center of the county, 4 1/2 miles from Victoria, and contains about 400 inhabitants. It is connected with St. Louis direct, and Victoria on the railroad, by good macadamized and graveled roads. It has a very high, healthy location, contains 2 churches-Union Protestant and Catholic, a good brick school-house, 5 stores, a few mechanics and 1 newspaper (the only one in Hillsboro)-the Jefferson Democrat, published by R. W. McMullin.

Horine Station, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 29 miles from St. Louis, contains 2 stores, and a shipping point for wood, timber, and agricultural productions.

House's Springs, 14 miles north of Hillsborough, one of the oldest places in the county, contains 2 stores and a good concrete school house.

Illinois, a station on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 26 miles from St. Louis.

Jefferson, a station on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 19 miles from St. Louis.

Kimmswick, occupying a beautiful and commanding location on the Mississippi River, and on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 21 miles from St. Louis, is the second town in size in the county, and has a fine flouring-mill, an iron foundry, a good hotel, 5 stores, a beautiful green-house and floral garden, a school-house and a Presbyterian church.

Maxville, on the gravel road leading from St. Louis to Hillsborough, 3 miles south of the Maramec River, is a new place with 1 store.

Morse's Mill, 6 miles north west of Hillsborough, has a mill and 1 store.

Old Ditch, a post office 17 miles south west of Hillsborough.

Pevely, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 27 miles from St. Louis, has 2 stores, 1 hotel, 1 school house and about 100 inhabitants. It has one of the prettiest locations in the county.

Plattin, a post office 7 1/2 miles east south east of Victoria.

Rush Tower, a post office and store 16 miles east south east of Victoria. It is also a landing place for boats.

Sulphur Springs, on the Mississippi river and the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 23 miles from St. Louis, has a flouring mill, 2 stores, 1 hotel, a school house, a Presbyterian church, and about 150 inhabitants.

Victoria, is finely located on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 39 miles from St. Louis, and has a good hotel, 2 stores, school house, and about 300 inhabitants.

Vineland, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 47 miles from St. Louis, has 2 stores, 2 baryta mills, and about 75 inhabitants.

†Assessed valuation in 1873 $3,711,102. Bonded debt $180,000. Bonded debt of DeSoto $25,000.

Source: Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, Revised Edition, by R. A. Campbell, Published by R. A. Campbell,
St. Louis, Missouri, 1875

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